Two years and three weeks ago, Colin and I threw a big party and said some vows, so three weeks ago we celebrated by visiting a tiny mountain town with stinky lake and one of the best hotels in the country. Suchitoto is only about an hour and a half north from San Salvador and has the distinction of being one of the few towns spared during the civil war, so its streets are cobblestoned and its buildings are one-story and surround small courtyards. We walked from the indeed lovely hotel to the lovely plaza in front of the church. That Friday was a national holiday, Father’s Day, so the plaza was full of families enjoying shaved ices and snapping photos. We had a decent lunch on the square and did a bit of souvenir shopping, picking out a new hammock and a clay pitcher.
Our guidebook, an old copy of Central America On a Budget, suggested walking down to the lake, so we set off in the heat Saturday morning, but about 20 minutes in and soaked with sweat, it occurred to me that our book never would have considered that we might be able to drive our own car down. The lake and its recreation area, once we got down there, proved disappointing. Not actually all that stinky, but definitely nicer to look at from afar. After about 15 minutes spent watching the small ferry boats from a park bench with an empty, open-air food court behind us and a curious family next to us, we took our leave. A dip in the hotel pool and a couple hours reading in the courtyard seemed a better use of our time.
The final day was basically a delirious, smelly, trafficky mess until our triumphant arrival in Bethesda, MD.
Fantastic, generous hosts: 3
Subway lunches: 4
Tickets, car troubles, other serious mishaps: 0
Highlight: midway through Peekaboo Trail in Bryce Canyon NP
Lowlight: leaving New Orleans and being thwarted at three potential campsites before finally going to sleep in the car along Mississippi’s Gulf Coast at 11pm
I’m glad to have made the coast-to-coast drive, and it was so fun to watch the country change from region to region. We saw many interesting corners we never would have seen otherwise. We sought out a lot of delicious food but also ate a lot of junk. The car and the relationship survived intact, so I think that counts for a win. All that said, though, I’m in no hurry to do it again.
For more great photos, check out Colin’s blog!
Fried green tomato (slices): 3
A couple days earlier we’d finished our truly riveting and time-passing audio book, Under the Banner of Heaven, and so now we were left with commercial-heavy radio, months’ old Radiolab podcasts, and each other’s company to fill the silence. Our mile count wasn’t nearly as high as it had been our first few days, but these miles seemed so much longer.
It got less scenic as we drove north from Charleston, where we had enjoyed a truly fine rendering of chicken and waffles for lunch. We’d also stopped at a roadside stand to buy a snack I’d thought I’d probably never have again, boiled peanuts.
After following one bad lead, we arrived at dusk at a North Carolina campground. The ranger came by on his way out for the night and told us we could pay in the morning if we were still there, but if we had to get on the road before that, to have a safe drive and come back and see them again some other time.
Unintentional detour (minutes): 20
Angry cars behind us at the gate: 8
Our Jacksonville friends treated us to a seriously delicious biscuit breakfast before we left, headed north for the first time since leaving Utah. My opinion of the South is based on mostly unflattering statistics, but it does have some beautiful historic cities and charming scenic byways. We walked three miles around Savannah and found lunch in the hippest, artsiest cafe in town. We crossed Savannah’s beautiful new bridge into South Carolina and headed to Hilton Head Island, land of the occasional gator and home of our host for the night, Kyle’s mom.
Miles (walking/driving): 10ish/100ish
Walking tours: 2
“Campsites” visited: nearly 5
A self-guided tour of the Garden District, then lunch and a walking tour of the French Quarter in the afternoon. I thought I saw John Goodman sitting on his porch, and I loitered outside of Sandra Bullock’s house hoping she might step out and start chatting with me, but alas. The streetcar on St. Charles Ave. was great for getting to the French Quarter but left us in the cold on the way home. Quiches and pastries, including beignets at Cafe du Monde, plus a beer for the road since open containers are legal in the streets. So weird. One final po’boy, and then we were on our way to try to find camping for the night. And that was an adventure not worth remembering.
Crawfish hand pies: 2
The only goal for me was to make it to New Orleans in time for dinner. We had time for coffee in Dallas with our host, Sean, lunch in Alexandria at Porky’s, and a traffic jam crossing the Mississippi River in Baton Rouge, and we still made it to the Historic Streetcar Inn on St. Charles Ave. around 7. We ordered too much at the Voodoo Barbeque & Grill, then found the last dive bar on the street, Lucky’s, for a beer and one set by the 26 String Mafia.
Bottles of wine sold in Navajo Country: 0
It was lightly snowing on us when we woke up, which I probably would have been more excited about if I had some hot cocoa and a fire waiting for me. We decided it was worth staying for the snowshoe hike that morning, even though we knew that would mean not getting to the Grand Canyon until after dark. The hike was great: fun, informative, picturesque since the snow had stopped and the clouds had cleared. Around noon we were back in the car heading south through the “Range” (as in, “Home, Home on the”) to the Grand Canyon, which we arrived at after dark even though it was less than 300 miles away. We had dinner on the rim of the canyon, hoping the moon would provide some illumination, but the cold breeze made it really difficult to enjoy.
Miles (on foot): 10.5±
Elevation gained (in feet): 1900
Deer spotted: 13
Sore feet: 2
Colin started us off right away with the hike up to Angel’s Landing, elev. 1500 ft. I huffed and puffed behind him, right up to the final ascent that is lined with chains to help people not fall to the canyon floor. Slick patches of ice made it all the more challenging. The view from the top was pretty spectacular, though.
We spent the afternoon on two shorter, easier, less stunning hikes, Riverside Walk and to the Emerald Pools. Finishing the evening with a bath and a beer.
Even with an hour stop in Vegas to keep things interesting, this was a monotonous day. We’re stopped for the night three miles outside of Zion National Park, which we will hike all over tomorrow, so that makes up for the 10 hours sitting in the car today, I hope.